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Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (1959; read in 2020)

Published by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.

This book is a stream-of-consciousness brain-dump of a junkie. In the afterword, Burroughs reveals—in refreshingly erudite prose—that he wrote some of the content the book during his withdrawal from a 15-year morphine addiction.

“The addict regards his body impersonally as an instrument to absorb the medium in which he lives, evaluates his tissue with the cold hands of a horse trader. “No use trying to hit there.” Dead fish eyes flick over a ravaged vein.”
Page 57
“The addict runs on junk time. His body is his clock, and junk runs through it like an hourglass. Time has meaning for him only with reference to his need. Then he makes his abrupt intrusion into the time of others, and, like all Outsiders, all Petitioners, he must wait, unless he happens to mesh with non-junk time.”
Page 180

Much of the rest of the book was originally arose from correspondence with Allen Ginsberg, one of Burroughs’s best friends and collaborators (and also a member of the “Beat Generation”) and with whom he was trying to kindle a romantic relationship.

The book is a labor of love by many people who helped Burroughs edit and shape the final work. He was adamant about its composition—even to the point of insisting on retaining obvious typos as intentional—and wanted it to read like it does. No chapter headings. Disjointed flow. No notion of storyline or chronology. Just a strong sense of common theme: on the surface, a story filtered through the mind of the junkie who wants nothing but more junk, but below that, a story of how a thinking person can hope to make their way through a world adamantly opposed to independent thought.

In the first third—the book was originally intended to be published in three parts, but all parties involved agreed that it stood better as a single work—there is a bit of a story of a man named Bill who flees cross-country to Mexico, with a rotating cast of companions—some real, some not—and an infinitude of places to cop and shack up and nod.

He writes of psychotic doctors and dealers and pushers and users. The hyperbolic prose freely mixes real-world events with fevered imaginings and dreams and heavily metaphoric renderings (e.g. the many, many hangings in the middle of the book involving people who keep coming back, again and again, in what would turn out—for the most part—to be faked hangings partaken by hangman and accused for a supposedly unparalleled sexual gratification).

He describes drugs and their effects lucidly, then disjointedly, weaving seemingly nonsensical prose—with heavy use of ellipses—into at-times vivid renderings of immediately recognizable real-world situations and locations. As Burroughs himself stated: it is not a novel. It is, at times, an epic poem.

The book does not tell a story—it delivers impressions, often very powerful ones. It is a maelstrom of words from an author whose deliberate rawness hides his frightening intelligence from anyone so inclined to allow it to be hidden. That is, if you want to be offended, you will be, missing out on the deeper message that the world itself is far more deeply offensive to anyone with a sensitivity to hypocrisy and an undiminished sense of justice. The raw language is the only way to treat bad things honestly.

The at-time maniacal prose nearly always reveals the author to be a clinical observer—especially of people—recording exactly the details of a person or place that snaps it into sharp relief for the reader (for whom memory fills the spaces left by the skeleton of Burroughs’s description).

“The café was built into one side of a stone ramp at the bottom of a high white canyon of masonry. Faces of The City poured through silent as fish, stained with vile addictions and insect lusts. The lighted café was a diving bell, cable broken, settling into black depths.”
Page 44
“Up through the river towns, Babahoya, Quevedo, Puerto Limón, black Stetsons and the grey malaria faces color of dirty paper, muzzle-loading shotguns and vultures pecking in the streets”
Page 262

Sometimes he’ll riff on what is almost certainly a real detail, an actual memory, supplementing it with a newly formed invention or one half-remembered from when he’d picked up the detail. He’ll tell of a young man he saw on a bus, then spend paragraphs describing the man’s history or future, though he neither never knew him nor ever would, instead stitching the real world to the richer, more interesting, parallel one playing out in his head.

“A few sentences plucked from the whirl of details in his mind, of the world only he sees with a history only he knows.”
Page 73

As noted above, the strong undercurrent of the book—for lack of a better word—is a surprisingly rational scream from a highly pragmatic man who did not prejudge, but instead partook. It warns of a world gone askew, in which those who can, and those who realize, and those who are wise to its mendacity, take refuge from it in the drugs that it forbids. The nation knows that its captives can escape its raw horror using drugs, and thus deprives its residents of all but the officially sanctioned varieties (e.g. alcohol and anti-depressants), guilting people into participating in the madness of American society instead.[1] In 1959 as today. Sorry, Bill; not much has changed. Not for most of us.

““I can feel the heat closing in,” Burroughs writes, setting the tone for the entire book, although such heat has less to do with the police than with the futility of freedom in a world of systems designed to keep us from ourselves”
Page 290 (from the Afterword)


“It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks. It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home.”
From the Foreword/Introduction by Marshall McLuhan
“The physical changes were slow at first, then jumped forward in black klunks, falling through his slack tissue, washing away the human lines . . . In his place of total darkness mouth and eyes are one organ that leaps forward to snap with transparent teeth . . . but no organ is constant as regards either function or position . . . sex organs sprout anywhere . . . rectums open, defecate and close . . . the entire organism changes color and consistency in split-second adjustments . . .”
Page 9
“Provident junkies, known as squirrels, keep stashes against a bust. Every time I take a shot I let a few drops fall into my vest pocket, the lining is stiff with stuff. I had a plastic dropper in my shoe and a safety pin stuck in my belt. You know how this pin and dropper routine is put down: “She seized a safety pin caked with blood and rust, gouged a great hole in her leg which seemed to hang open like an obscene, festering mouth waiting for unspeakable congress with the dropper which she now plunged out of sight into the gaping wound. But her hideous galvanized need (hunger of insects in dry places) has broken the dropper off deep in the flesh of her ravaged thigh (looking rather like a poster on soil erosion).”
Page 10
“So we pour it in a Pernod bottle and start for New Orleans past iridescent lakes and orange gas flares, and swamps and garbage heaps, alligators crawling around in broken bottles and tin cans, neon arabesques of motels, marooned pimps scream obscenities at passing cars from islands of rubbish . . .”
Page 13
“(Slunks are underage calves trailing afterbirths and bacteria, generally in an unsanitary and unfit condition. A calf may not be sold as food until it reaches a minimum age of six weeks. Prior to that time it is classified as a slunk. Slunk trafficking is subject to a heavy penalty.)”
Page 27
“They are all stupid peasants, and the worst of all peasants are the so-called educated. These people should not only be prevented from learning to read, but from learning to talk as well. No need to prevent them from thinking; nature has done that.”
Page 40
“The shoe shine boy put on his hustling smile and looked up into the Sailor’s dead, cold, undersea eyes, eyes without a trace of warmth or lust or hate or any feeling the boy had ever experienced in himself or seen in another, at once cold and intense, impersonal and predatory.”
Page 43
“He laughed, black insect laughter that seemed to serve some obscure function of orientation like a bat’s squeak. The Sailor laughed three times. He stopped laughing and hung there motionless listening down into himself. He had picked up the silent frequency of junk. His face smoothed out like yellow wax over the high cheekbones. He waited half a cigarette. The Sailor knew how to wait. But his eyes burned in a hideous dry hunger.”
Page 44
“The café was built into one side of a stone ramp at the bottom of a high white canyon of masonry. Faces of The City poured through silent as fish, stained with vile addictions and insect lusts. The lighted café was a diving bell, cable broken, settling into black depths.”
Page 44
“The Sailor’s face dissolved. His mouth undulated forward on a long tube and sucked in the black fuzz, vibrating in supersonic peristalsis, disappeared in a silent, pink explosion.”
Page 45
“At all levels criss-cross of bridges, cat walks, cable cars. Catatonic youths dressed as women in gowns of burlap and rotten rags, faces heavily and crudely painted in bright colors over a stratum of beatings, arabesques of broken, suppurating scars to the pearly bone, push against the passer-by in silent clinging insistence.”
Page 45

Shades of Gibson or, rather, Gibson’s style is similar to Burroughs.

“Addicts of Mugwump fluid are known as Reptiles. A number of these flow over chairs with their flexible bones and black-pink flesh. A fan of green cartilage covered with hollow, erectile hairs through which the Reptiles absorb the fluid sprouts from behind each ear. The fans, which move from time to time touched by invisible currents, serve also some form of communication known only to Reptiles. During the biennial Panics when the raw, peeled Dream Police storm the City the Mugwumps take refuge in the deepest crevices of the wall, sealing themselves in clay cubicles, and remain for weeks in biostasis. In those days of grey terror the Reptiles dart about faster and faster, scream past each other at supersonic speed, their flexible skulls flapping in black winds of insect agony.”
Page 46
“Egypt is a worm gets into your kidneys and grows to an enormous size. Ultimately the kidney is just a thin shell around the worm. Intrepid gourmets esteem the flesh of The Worm above all other delicacies. It is said to be unspeakably toothsome . . . An Interzone coroner known as Autopsy Ahmed made a fortune trafficking The Worm.”
Page 50
“(Espontáneo is a bull-fighting term for a member of the audience who leaps down into the ring, pulls out a concealed cape and attempts a few passes with the bull before he is dragged out of the ring.)”
Page 52
“There is no withdrawal syndrome with C. It is a need of the brain alone–a need without body and without feeling. Earthbound ghost need. The craving for C lasts only a few hours as long as the C channels are stimulated. Then you forget it. Eukodol is like a combination of junk and C. Trust the Germans to concoct some really evil shit. Eukodol like morphine is six times stronger than codeine. Heroin six times stronger than morphine. Dihydro-oxy-heroin should be six times stronger than heroin. Quite possible to develop a drug so habit-forming that one shot would cause lifelong addiction.”
Page 55
“The needle slides in easily on the edge of a callus. I feel around. Suddenly a thin column of blood shoots up into the syringe, for a moment sharp and solid as a red cord.”
Page 55
“Look down at my filthy trousers, haven’t been changed in months . . . The days glide by strung on a syringe with a long thread of blood . . . I am forgetting sex and all sharp pleasures of the body–a grey, junk-bound ghost.”
Page 56
“Running out of veins and out of money.”
Page 56
“The addict regards his body impersonally as an instrument to absorb the medium in which he lives, evaluates his tissue with the cold hands of a horse trader. “No use trying to hit there.” Dead fish eyes flick over a ravaged vein.”
Page 57
“An old garbage collector, face fine and yellow as Chinese ivory, blows The Blast on his dented brass horn, wakes the Spanish pimp with a hard-on. Whore staggers out through dust and shit and litter of dead kittens, carrying bales of aborted foetuses, broken condoms, bloody Kotex, shit wrapped in bright color comics.”
Page 63
“A vast still harbor of iridescent water. Deserted gas well flares on the smoky horizon. Stink of oil and sewage. Sick sharks swim through the black water, belch sulphur from rotting livers, ignore a bloody, broken Icarus.”
Page 64

“A.J. whips out a cutlass and begins decapitating the American Girls. He sings lustily:

“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum.
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum.

“Mr. Hyslop, bored and resigned: “Oh Gawd! He’s at it again.” He waves the Jolly Roger listlessly.”

Page 70

Reminds me of the surrealism of Jean Luc Goddard.

“Dilapidated Diseuse in 1920 clothes like she sleep in them ever since undulates across dreary neon-lighted Chicago street . . . dead weight of the Dear Dead Days hanging in the air like an earth-bound ghost.”
Page 73
“A few sentences plucked from the whirl of details in his mind, of the world only he sees with a history only he knows.”
Page 73
“Johnny and Mary in hotel room (music of “East St. Louis Toodleoo”). Warm spring wind blows faded pink curtains in through open window . . . Frogs croak in vacant lots where corn grows and boys catch little green garter snakes under broken limestone stelae stained with shit and threaded with rusty barbed wire . . .”
Page 83
“Only the laughing bones remain, flesh over the hills and far away with the dawn wind and a train whistle.”
Page 100
“The screaming skull rolls up the back stairs to bite off the cock of erring husband taking dour advantage of his wife’s earache to do that which is inconvenient. The young landlubber dons a southwester, beats his wife to death in the shower . . .”
Page 110


“(A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.)”
Page 112
“BERGER (leaps up): “I got the health! . . . All the health! Enough health for the whole world, the whole fuckin world!! I cure everybody!””
Page 117

This sounds a lot like Trump crowing after he had COVID-19. I wonder if someone noticed the similarity?

“Salvador Hassan O’Leary, the After Birth Tycoon, is also involved. That is, one of his subsidiary companies has made unspecified contributions, and one of his subsidiary personalities is attached to the organization in an advisory capacity without in any way committing himself to, or associating himself with, the policies, actions or objectives of Islam Inc.”
Page 122
“A professional witch was called in to make Sheik Aracknid’s replica cultures forever sterile . . . As the witch was preparing to loose a blast of anti-orgones, Benway told him: “Don’t knock yourself out. Friedrich’s ataxia will clean out that replica nest. I studied neurology under Professor Fingerbottom in Vienna . . . and he knew every nerve in your body. Magnificent old thing . . . Came to a sticky end . . . His falling piles blew out the Duc de Ventre’s Hispano Suiza and wrapped around the rear wheel. He was completely gutted, leaving an empty shell sitting there on the giraffe skin upholstery . . . Even the eyes and brain went, with a horrible schlupping sound. The Duc de Ventre says he will carry that ghastly schlup to his mausoleum.””
Page 138

I’m over halfway through the book and I think he’s pretty much at peak non sequitur now: there are some recurring threads and recurring characters, but it’s mostly just sparse and simultaneously rich detail shining a focused disc of light on a deranged phantasm, a corner of one reality or another.

“It may be said that the average Divisionist lives in a continual crisis of fear and rage, unable to achieve either the self-righteous complacency of the Senders or the relaxed depravity of the Liquefactionists . . . However the parties are not in practice separate but blend in all combinations. The Factualists are Anti-Liquefactionist, Anti-Divisionist, and above all Anti-Sender.”
Page 140
“He taunts and tantalizes with a sense of this world, fleeting as a dream.”
Page 140

“Not when I got that sweet little ol’ fifteen year old thing . . . You know that yaller girl used to work in Marylou’s Hair Straightening and Skin Bleach Parlor over in Nigga town.’

“‘Getting that dark chicken meat, Arch? Gettin’ that coon pone?’

“‘Gettin’ it steady, Doc. Gettin’ it steady. Well, feller say duty is goosing me. Gotta get back to the old crank case.’

“‘I’ll bet she needs a grease job worst way.’

“‘Doc, she sure is a dry hole . . . Well, thanks for the paregoric.’”

Page 146
“The deal drags on for months. They engage the services of an Expeditor. Finally Marvie emerges with a check for 42 Turkestani kurus drawn on an anonymous bank in South America, to clear through Amsterdam, a procedure that will take eleven months more or less.”
Page 150

“The Island was a British Military and Naval station directly opposite the Zone. England holds the Island on yearly rent-free lease, and every year the Lease and Permit of Residence is formally renewed. The entire population turns out–attendance is compulsory–and gathers at the municipal dump. The President of the Island is required by custom to crawl across the garbage on his stomach and deliver the Permit of Residence and Renewal of the Lease, signed by every citizen of the Island, to The Resident Governor who stands resplendent in dress uniform.

“The Governor takes the permit and shoves it into his coat pocket: “Well,” he says with a tight smile, “so you’ve decided to let us stay another year have you? Very good of you. And everyone is happy about it? . . . Is there anyone who isn’t happy about it?”

“Soldiers in jeeps sweep mounted machine guns back and forth across the crowd with a slow, searching movement. “Everybody happy. Well that’s fine.”

“He turns jovially to the prostrate President. “I’ll keep your papers in case I get caught short. Haw haw haw.”

“His loud, metallic laugh rings out across the dump, and the crowd laughs with him under the searching guns.”

Page 152
“The Sailor spoke in his feeling voice that reassembles in your head, spelling out the words with cold fingers: “Your connection is broken, kid.””
Page 167
“The addict runs on junk time. His body is his clock, and junk runs through it like an hourglass. Time has meaning for him only with reference to his need. Then he makes his abrupt intrusion into the time of others, and, like all Outsiders, all Petitioners, he must wait, unless he happens to mesh with non-junk time.”
Page 180
“There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing . . . I am a recording instrument . . . I do not presume to impose “story” “plot” “continuity” . . . Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function . . . I am not an entertainer . . .”
Page 184

Honest and lucid finally.

““What are you thinking?” says the squirming American Tourist . . . To which I reply: “Morphine having depressed my hypothalamus, seat of libido and emotion, and since the front brain acts only at second hand with back-brain titillation, being a vicarious type citizen can only get his kicks from behind, I must report virtual absence of cerebral event. I am aware of your presence, but since it has for me no affective connotation, my affect having been disconnect by the junk man for the nonpayment, I am not innarested in your doings . . . Go or come, shit or fuck yourself with a rasp or an asp–’tis well done and fitting for a queen–but The Dead and The Junky don’t care . . .” They are Inscrutable.”
Page 192


All of the following citations come from the “extras” included at the end of the book. The section begins with a few essays and letters from Burroughs himself, by way of explication over the decades after the book’s initial publication. After that, there are alternate formulations of scenes included in the book—kind of like “Deleted Scenes” on a DVD. Finally, there is the official Afterword by the two authors who put together this extended edition.

“Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use.”
Page 200
“The addict in street who must have junk to live is the one irreplaceable factor in the junk equation. When there are no more addicts to buy junk there will be no junk traffic. As long as junk need exists, someone will service it.”
Page 202
“So far as I know, England is the only country to apply this method to the junk problem. They have about five hundred quarantined addicts in the U.K. In another generation when the quarantined addicts die off and pain killers operating on a non-junk principle are discovered, the junk virus will be like smallpox, a closed chapter–a medical curiosity.”
Page 202
“I lived in one room in the Native Quarter of Tangier. I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes or removed them except to stick a needle every hour in the fibrous grey wooden flesh of terminal addiction. I never cleaned or dusted the room. Empty ampule boxes and garbage piled to the ceiling. Light and water long since turned off for non-payment. I did absolutely nothing. I could look at the end of my shoe for eight hours. I was only roused to action when the hourglass of junk ran out. If a friend came to visit–and they rarely did since who or what was left to visit–I sat there not caring that he had entered my field of vision–a grey screen always blanker and fainter–and not caring when he walked out of it.”
Page 202
“Certain passages in the book that have been called pornographic were written as a tract against Capital Punishment in the manner of Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal. These sections are intended to reveal capital punishment as the obscene, barbaric and disgusting anachronism that it”
Page 206
“junky does not want to be warm, he wants to be Cool-Cooler-COLD. But he wants The Cold like he wants His Junk–NOT OUTSIDE where it does him no good but INSIDE so he can sit around with a spine like a frozen hydraulic jack . . . his metabolism approaching Absolute ZERO. TERMINAL addicts often go two months without a bowel move and the intestines make with sit-down-adhesions–Wouldn’t you?–requiring the intervention of an apple corer or its surgical equivalent. . . . Such is life in The Old Ice House. Why move around and waste TIME?”
Page 208
“The use of morphine leads to a metabolic dependence on morphine. Morphine becomes a biologic need like water and the user may die if he is suddenly deprived of it. The diabetic will die without insulin, but he is not addicted to insulin. His need for insulin was not brought about by the use of insulin. He needs insulin to maintain a normal metabolism. The addict needs morphine to maintain a morphine metabolism, and so avoid the excruciatingly painful return to a normal metabolism.”
Page 214
“Imperceptible reduction is likely to be endless reduction. When the addict seeks cure, he has, in most cases, already experienced withdrawal symptoms many times. He expects an unpleasant ordeal and he is prepared to endure it. But if the pain of withdrawal is spread over two months instead of ten days he may not be able to endure it. It is not the intensity but the duration of pain that breaks the will to resist.”
Page 219
“In Persia where opium is sold without control in opium shops, 70 percent of the adult population is addicted.”
Page 230

Any truth to this? Sound extremely far-fetched. It turns out to be a gross exaggeration, as detailed in Opium in Iran (Wikipedia).

“Naked Lunch evolved slowly and unpredictably over nine tumultuous years in the life of its author, William Seward Burroughs. The novel was not created according to a predetermined outline or plan, but accumulated through a decade of travel and turmoil on four continents and continually edited and reedited not only by its author but also by his close friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.”
Page 233
“Thus, by its very nature, Naked Lunch resists the idea of a fixed text, and our re-creation of the history of its composition and editing has required a careful review of many disparate typescripts in various archival collections, as well as the two first editions, in 1959 (Oympia Press) and 1962 (Grove Press)–the texts of which are quite different.”
Page 233
“No, it wasn’t in New Orleans, because Al was there–or was he? He couldn’t have been there. But I can feel him there.”
Page 254

This is an excellent description/example of what it feels like to realize that a memory is flat-out wrong, but that it still feels so real, a reality that, even in recognition of its unreality—or, at best, gross inaccuracy—still retains a hold strong enough to lull one back into believing that it actually did happen.

“The U.S.A. is burned down dust bowl, cattle and junkies low for relief as they nuzzle the dry opium pipes and empty caps . . .”
Page 257
“In the gathering grey twilight of junk . . . shooting every hour–looked at my shoe all day . . . grey pictures on a grey screen, fading slower and slower . . . Your time is running out almost gone it was panic got me to the airport and on the plane with an eau de cologne bottle full of junk solution . . . fixed in the airport washroom at Paris, on to the grey [streets of London] . . . Apomorphine puked up my monkey in bloody pieces into a basin carried out . . . flesh hangs on the bones the untenanted body, and then suddenly you are back inside moving and I walked through Hyde Park . . .”
Page 257
“There is something about Chicago that paralyzes the spirit under a dead weight of a formalism dictated by hoodlums, a hierarchy of decorticated wops . . . And everywhere the smell of atrophied gangsters, the dead weight of those dear dead days hanging in the air like rancid ectoplasm . . . You suffocate in the immediate past, still palpable, quivering like an earthbound ghost, slipping around the corner in a junky’s body stealing out of a night spot, the old time jazz or just the soul of the Twenties disembodied will hit you in Lincoln Park, or there on the Near North Side at Dearborn and Halsted the feel of the Twenties will hit you.”
Page 258
“Up through the river towns, Babahoya, Quevedo, Puerto Limón, black Stetsons and the grey malaria faces color of dirty paper, muzzle-loading shotguns and vultures pecking in the streets”
Page 262
“He died testing a condemned parachute misconverted and reconverted by Trak, Inc.–a scandal involving a sinister Albanian Fixer known as Mr. IN who got his start as a Congressional lavatory attendant . . .”
Page 263
“American suburbs where the male soul rots on transplanted sod […]”
Page 267
“Lee walked back the way he had come through streets twisted in a slow arthritis of masonry . . . Up the winding stairs warped by the late unsteady returns of a vehement drunkard so that now you stagger up those stairs drunk or sober.”
Page 269
“Every day die a little. It takes up the time.”
Page 280

“The winged horse and the mosaic of iron cut the sky to blue cake . . .

“On crystal balconies pensive angels study pink fingernails . . . Gilt flakes fall through the sunlight . . .”

Page 283
“Bougainvillea covers the limestone steps . . . Poisoned pigeons rain from the Northern Lights, plop with burning wings into dry canal . . . The Reservoirs are empty . . . Blue stairs end spiral down suffocate . . . where brass statues crash through the hungry squares and alleys of the gaping city . . .”
Page 283
“Like I say The Reader will frequently find the same thing said in the same words. This is not carelessness nor is it for The Infatuation With Sound Of Own Words Dept. . . . It indicates space-time juxtaposition . . . a folding in and back (the universe is curved, feller say) . . .”
Page 288

Breaking the fourth wall.

“if Kerouac was the chronicler, William S. Burroughs stood out as the intellectual center, the most edgy and uncompromising of them all. He was Old Bull Lee, gentleman junkie, Texas pot farmer, the slightly older mentor who had initiated Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg into the underground.”
Page 289
“Little wonder, then, that at sixteen, I could not read it, for I didn’t know what I was looking at. (I finally did manage to navigate Naked Lunch in college, although even then, there was much about it that I missed.) Indeed,”
Page 290
“The tension this embodies—between the urge to write and the inadequacies of language, between the incomprehensibility of everything and our inherent need to make some accommodation with the chaos, even if only to disengage—resides at the heart of Naked Lunch, which remains as relevant and relentless as it has ever been.”
Page 290
““I can feel the heat closing in,” Burroughs writes, setting the tone for the entire book, although such heat has less to do with the police than with the futility of freedom in a world of systems designed to keep us from ourselves”
Page 290
“Burroughs had always been an enemy of hypocrisy.”
Page 290
“Trocchi is smart, but Burroughs, as it turns out, may be smarter, aware that even the most extreme philosophical position is still a philosophical position, offering only the illusion of control.”
Page 290
““The Word is divided into units which be all in one piece and should so be taken,” Burroughs declares, “but the pieces can be had in any order being tied up back and forth in and out fore and aft like an innaresting sex arrangement. This book spill off the page in all directions, kaleidoscope of vistas, medley of tunes and street noises, farts and riot yips and the slamming steel shutters of commerce, screams of pain and pathos and screams plain pathic, copulating cats and outraged squawk of the displaced bullhead, prophetic mutterings of brujo in nutmeg trance, snapping necks and screaming mandrakes, sigh of orgasm, heroin silent as dawn in the thirsty cells, Radio Cairo screaming like a berserk tobacco auction, and flutes of Ramadan fanning the sick junky like a gentle lush worker in the grey subway dawn feeling with delicate fingers for the green folding crackle . . .”
Page 290


That formulation reminds me of a citation from Industrial Society and its Future by Theodore Kaczynski,

“In effect, antidepressants are a means of modifying an individual’s internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable.”